Safety’s always first when it comes to power lines
From lights to television, our electrical grid may very well be the beating heart of today’s world—but what happens when a power line falls? Downed power lines aren’t just a hassle—they’re a hazard. How do you keep your home and family safe when a downed power line falls in your yard? And who is responsible for getting your family back on the grid? Learn what to do and how to stay safe if a power line falls near your home or on your car.
3 Things to Do if You Find a Power Line Down in Your Yard
If you have the unfortunate experience of discovering a downed power line in your yard, don’t panic. Follow the three steps below to help keep your home, family, and pets safe—and restore power as soon as possible.
1. Call 911 or the Power Company ASAP
Calling 911 or the power company is something you should do immediately after seeing a downed power line. If you can do any of the steps belowwhile also calling for help, that is your best bet.
Your power company will need to cut the power at the source to prevent fire or electrocution. After that’s done, you’ll be free to move about the area and go about getting the lines repaired.
2. Get a Safe Distance Away
If you notice a downed power line, it’s crucial to get as far away as possible—at least 100 feet—while checking to ensure the area is clear. It’s difficult to know if the power line is live or not, but it’s best to assume it’s live.
The situation is even more dangerous if the downed power line is near any water, even if it’s just a small puddle. In these cases, get as far away as possible while making sure you stay away from any water. If you’re in an area with high foot traffic, you can alert anyone who comes near so they don’t get close to the downed power line.
If you’re in your home, keep an eye on the scene from a safe distance and remain inside until the power company shuts off the current. If you are outside, the Salt River Project recommends that you shuffle (not walk) in order to get away. Keep both feet on the ground to help minimize the risk of electric shock.
On the other hand, if you’re driving in your car and see a downed power line in your path, you absolutely should not drive over it.
3. Look for Signs of Fire
You should also look for signs of fire caused by electrical sparking. When a downed power line falls and comes in contact with vegetation below, it can cause a fire capable of spreading into a wildfire or damaging property. Keep a safe distance while looking for smoke, flames, or sparks. You may also notice a burning smell, which could mean a fire is starting.
Inside your home, a downed line might have caused a power surge significant enough to potentially overload your electronics, which is also a fire risk. Walk through your house and check on your electronics to see if a fire has sparked. Call 911 immediately if you discover a fire.
What to Do If a Power Line Falls on Your Car
If you hit a pole during a car accident, or if a power line falls on your car during a storm, the first thing you need to do is to stay in your car. Leaving your car can lead to electrocution and possibly even death, so it’s important that you stay calm and stay put.
Next, call 911 and let the operator know that you have a downed power line on your car, and give them your location.
While you wait for help, don’t sit back and scroll on your phone. You should stay alert and keep an eye out for people who may want to help. If you spot anyone headed your direction, roll down your window and let them know to stay away for their own safety.
Once the first responders give you the green light to get out of the vehicle, you can finally do so safely.
Who Is Responsible When a Power Line Falls?
So, who’s responsible for a downed power line? When a power line falls, it will be your power company’s duty to repair and raise the line again safely. They will reconnect the wires to the electrical grid and to your home’s attachment point. From there, though, it’s up to you.
You will likely need to bring in a licensed electrician to repair any damage that may have been done to your home’s wiring. This is usually an emergency service call for your local electrician, because most power companies will not restore service to individual properties until the necessary repairs have been made by a certified professional electrician.
How to Prevent a Power Line From Falling in Your Yard
Downed power lines occur more often than you might think, but understanding the conditions that can put your electrical wires at risk will help you prepare. Inclement weather, of course, may easily bring down power lines. From wind and rain storms to winter ice storms, your lines simply may not withstand the punishment.
Trees can also be a hazard. If your trees have grown into your wires, they could be a shock or electrocution risk, and you could be at a greater risk of a downed line at some point. Trees, especially if they are unhealthy, can easily topple in heavy winds, while ice accumulation can bring down limbs. And with them may come the wires that have grown into them.
However, one of the best ways to deal with downed power lines is to try to prevent them in the first place. If you notice that your trees have grown into your power lines, it’s a good idea to give your local power company a heads-up so they can send a local tree trimming crew to fix it.
If the tree is on your property, you will probably be responsible for dealing with the problem. If you’re a DIYer, note that you should hand off this job to a professional tree trimmer. Pruning near power lines can be life-threatening if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Other types of work around the house near power lines can be dangerous, too, if you’re not skilled and careful. This can include working on the roof, painting the house, using metal ladders near utility poles and lines, and moving large farm equipment.
You should also avoid the following around power lines to prevent potential problems:
Balloons that aren’t properly tied down
If an object like a kite gets stuck in a power line, call the electrical company and don’t attempt to get it down yourself.
Terri Beth Miller contributed to this piece.